Letter to the Editor: More transparency needed for Rio Grande commissioner meetings

To the editor,

On behalf of the Committee to Recall John Noffsker, thank you to the many hundreds of citizens who signed our petition, willingly, with the intent to exercise your wishes and opinions as voters of Rio Grande County. Thank you to everyone who listened and shared our concerns.

A special thank you too, to those individuals who dedicated so much time and energy to gathering signatures. When a diverse group of concerned, nonpartisan citizens work together for the betterment of their community, whatever the outcome, it is surely something to celebrate.

This letter also informs the community that the recent petition to recall Rio Grande County Commissioner John Noffsker was not submitted to the County Clerk because we did not collect the required number of signatures. Given the large number of signatures that were collected, we still consider this a strong effort. We believe that we have raised awareness about the poor management of the county, from public health to personnel and more, and Commissioner Noffsker’s lack of leadership ability. We did not take this effort lightly and we decided to proceed only after his fellow Commissioner, Suzanne Bothell, directly asked Commissioner Noffsker to resign in July.

Regardless of the slight shortfall in signatures, our concerns remain. Whether due to a work environment or “pursuit of other passions,” the fact remains that since May 2020, Rio Grande County has lost a number of key employees:  

The Public Health Director was fired in May

The first Interim Public Health Director resigned in July

The County Administrator resigned in July

The Human Resources Director resigned in July

The second Interim Public Health Director resigned in September

The Airport Manager resigned in September

The County Attorney resigned in September

A Maintenance Department employee resigned in October

As of this writing we do not know if anyone has been hired to fill these positions. Given that minutes from the Commissioner meetings have not been posted since July (itself a cause for concern), and no announcements regarding potential candidates or the hiring of candidates have been made, there is no way to know. We hope that our effort will lead to increased transparency in county governance.

However, Commissioner Noffsker, who is Chair of the Board, does not appear to be promoting an atmosphere of transparency. No Board of County Commissioners agendas have been posted on the county website since August. While, technically, the agendas only have to be posted on the bulletin board in the courthouse in Del Norte, the Board has traditionally posted agendas on the county website and the public is accustomed to finding them there. Given the ongoing pandemic, having the agendas posted electronically and well in advance of meetings is key to public information and engagement. 

Further, it turns out, if a citizen wants to see an agenda, that citizen has to get access to that digital file! Especially during this pandemic, the commissioners are not using the public’s own website to benefit and inform the public.

The commissioners are also not being transparent in their role as the Board of Health. According to information in the September 30 edition of the Monte Vista Journal, Commissioner Noffsker alone was appointed to work with the Public Health Department to restructure it. No minutes from Board of Health meetings have been posted since April. Basically, all we know of the actions of the Board of Health is what Commissioner Noffsker has deigned to say. We find it difficult to arrive at any clarity or to trust in the actions of the Commissioners or Board of Health when there is such little accountability. We ask Commissioner Noffsker to see that these minutes are posted immediately.

This committee and supporters will continue to monitor the activities of the Rio Grande County, its commissioners, and specifically Commissioner Noffsker. We encourage all of the residents of Rio Grande County to participate in your local government. Ask questions. Talk with your friends. Get involved, whether that means having these discussions, attending meetings, or stepping up yourself to get involved. We are proud to be taking action in our democracy and welcome the opportunity to help our county be the best it can be.

The Committee to Recall John Noffsker
Deanne Elliott
Mettje Swift
Mona Syring
Rio de la Vista
Kathleen O’Brien-Kenvin


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